The Glass Mountain (film)

The Glass Mountain is a 1949 black and white British romantic film drama. It starred Michael Denison, Dulcie Gray and Valentina Cortese.[1] The film was a popular success of its day, and was re-released in the UK in 1950 and 1953.[2] It features acclaimed classical vocalist Tito Gobbi as himself, with the orchestra and chorus of the Venice Opera House.[3] The theme music by Nino Rota is memorable, and was also a contemporary hit.[4][5] It was mainly filmed on location in the Dolomites and at Venice's La Fenice Opera House. Co-producer Joseph Janni also co-produced another film shot in Italy, the comedy Honeymoon Deferred, in 1951.

The Glass Mountain
Original British quad poster
Directed byHenry Cass
Produced byJoseph Janni
Frederick Zelnic
Written byEmery Bonnet
Henry Cass
John Cousins
John Hunter
Joseph Janni
StarringMichael Denison
Dulcie Gray
Music byNino Rota
CinematographyWilliam McLeod
Edited byLister Laurance
Distributed byRenown Pictures Corporation (UK) Eagle-Lion Films (US)
Release date
  • 9 March 1949 (1949-03-09) (UK)
Running time
88 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

The Guardian wrote, "most reference books now deride the film, but at a time when Britain was emerging from the war into a period of grey austerity, The Glass Mountain and movies like it were a popular tonic. Set in the beautiful Dolomite mountains, with graceful performers and a nostalgically slow pace, it was one of the most successful British films to that date. The part of the composer was taken by Denison, with whom (Dulcie) Gray starred on stage and screen so many times that the Denisons became one of the "royal families" of the British entertainment scene." [6]

A tale from peasant folklore concerns a mountain made of glass and a man's attempts to climb it, to win the love of a princess. For each step he takes, he slides back two steps; so, cleverly, he turns about and climbs it backwards, gaining double elevation with each downward step.[7]


Struggling composer Richard Wilder (Michael Denison) becomes an RAF Observer in the Second World War. His aeroplane is shot down over the Italian Dolomite mountains, but he is found unconscious in the snow by Alida (Valentina Cortese). She nurses him back to health. She tells him a local legend about two lovers - one a ghost who leads her faithless partner to his doom over a precipice on the Glass Mountain.

When the war ends, Richard returns to England and his loving wife Anne (Dulcie Gray). He begins composing an opera based on the legend of Dolomite, the Glass Mountain, which has begun to haunt him.

On his wife's birthday, he sees a photograph of Alida on the cover of a magazine. Inside, a caption states that Alida Morisini has come to London to receive an honour. He tries to get in touch with her, but she has already left the country. From then on, he becomes more and more miserable. Anne eventually guesses he is in love with someone else; he confesses he loves Alida.

Richard returns to Italy - alone - and to Alida. The Teatro La Fenice is looking for an opera for their festival, and Tito Gobbi has told them about Richard's (unfinished) one. Meanwhile, Gino, a local man in love with Alida, asks Richard to leave. When he refuses, they fight, but nothing is settled. Richard tries to break up with Alida, but she persuades him not to. Richard's opera is chosen for the festival, so he sends for his lyricist, Bruce McLeod. Bruce tries to convince Alida it is best if she and Richard part.

Anne persuades her friend Charles to fly her to the premiere of Richard's La Montagna di Cristallo (The Glass Mountain) in Venice. When they pass near the real Glass Mountain, she asks Charles to show it to her. He obliges, but they crash on the mountain.

The opera tells the tragic tale of Antonio and Maria. Antonio promises his beloved Maria that someday they will climb the Glass Mountain together. However, he goes away to the plain and does not return. Finally, Maria climbs the mountain alone and is never seen again. At Antonio's wedding to another woman, he hears Maria's voice and goes to the mountain to be reunited with her. He climbs and then falls to his death.

Richard conducts his own work and receives a standing ovation at its conclusion. Afterward, Richard is told by Alida about Anne. He must now choose between his muse and his wife, as the mythical and modern levels of the legend coincide.[8] Alida sees that he has chosen Anne and bids him goodbye. Richard races to the mountain and insists on going out to meet the rescue party. Gino guides him. The doctor tells him that Anne is badly injured, but should recover.


Critical reception

TV Guide wrote, "Cortese's performance is outstanding; Denison and Gray, husband and wife in reality, handle their familiar relationship well, but the real stars of the picture are the music, with operatic baritone Gobbi, and the beautiful mountain scenery."[7]

Bosley Crowther, The New York Times critic, was unimpressed, writing, "It is pedestrian stuff saved from being banal by a few performances, the authentic backgrounds and some lilting arias."[9]

Time Out called it "solidly directed, lavishly mounted romantic tosh."[10]

Leonard Maltin's Movie and Video Guide described it as a "beautifully made film of a British composer who writes an opera, inspired by majestic Italian Alps. A treat for music lovers, with many singers from La Scala appearing in opera sequence."[2]

Musical numbers

  • "Wayfarer" (Vivian Lambelet and Elizabeth Anthony) first sung by Michael Denison
  • "La Montanara" (Ortelli and Pigarelli) sung by Tito Gobbi
  • "The Glass Mountain" (Nino Rota) sung by Tito Gobbi and Elena Rizzieri
  • Opera sequences sung by Elena Rizzieri and Tito Gobbi of the Scala Opera House, Milan[2]


  1. "The Glass Mountain | BFI | BFI". Retrieved 13 March 2014.
  2. "CEL PAGE 9". 16 November 2013. Retrieved 13 March 2014.
  3. "The Glass Mountain - Sky Movies HD". 24 May 2002. Retrieved 13 March 2014.
  4. "ARCHIVE Gi - Gl: British Films of the 30s, 40s and 50s". Retrieved 13 March 2014.
  5. "Nino Rota - The Legend of the Glass Mountain (1949)". Music Sales Classical. Retrieved 13 March 2014.
  6. Dennis Barker. "Dulcie Gray obituary | Film". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 March 2014.
  7. "The Glass Mountain Review". Retrieved 13 March 2014.
  8. Harper, Sue (14 September 2000). Women in British Cinema: Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know - Sue Harper - Google Books. ISBN 9780826447333. Retrieved 13 March 2014.
  9. Crowther, Bosley (18 May 1950). "Movie Review - In a Lonely Place - THE SCREEN: THREE FILMS MAKE THEIR BOWS; Humphrey Bogart Movie, 'In a Lonely Place,' at Paramount -Import at Trans-Lux 'Annie Get Your Gun,' Starring Betty Hutton, Is Presented at Loew's State Theatre". Retrieved 13 March 2014.
  10. "The Glass Mountain | review, synopsis, book tickets, showtimes, film release date & No. 124; Time Out London". Retrieved 13 March 2014.
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